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The good thing, after all, was that we should surely see no more of him.

This was not so good a thing, I admit, as not to leave me to judge that what, essentially, made nothing else much signify was simply my charming work.

Here is the Gutenberg URL(https://www.gutenberg.org/files/209/209-h/209-h.htm).

I run into this confusing sentence while I was reading The Turn of the Screw by Henry James. It is quoated from just before the middle of chapter 4.

I'd like to ask two questions. The first is of the way to grammatically interpret the sentence, and the second is of how difficult it is to read the sentence for native speakers. I mean, do native speakers read the sentence without any difficulty? or do even they find it difficult to understand the sentence?

I'd appreaciate it if you would answer my questions.

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It's helpful to separate the major constituents of the sentence:

what, essentially, made nothing else much signify was simply my charming work.

Paraphrase: Essentially, it was simply my charming work that made everything else signify little (i.e. be of little significance).

This (i.e. that we would see no more of him) was not so good a thing, I admit, as not to leave me to judge that ...

Paraphrase: That we would see no more of him, though it was a good thing, was not so good a thing that it spared me having to conclude ...

Putting the paraphrases together again:

That we would see no more of him, though it was a good thing, was not so good a thing that it spared me having to conclude that, essentially, it was simply my charming work that made everything else be of little significance.

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  • Bravo! +1 for an excellent answer. Commented Nov 14, 2023 at 12:37

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